I didn't know much about Christina Rossetti until I read this: I'd read some of her poetry including the spectacular and disturbing Goblin Market, but her life had been rolled in with Dante Gabriel and the Pre-Raphaelites. This is an excellent antidote. While Jones covers the PRB and DGR (since they all had an impact on Christina's sheltered life) she does focus as much as possible on both Christina the woman and Christina the poet. There are ample samples of both her imaginative work and also domestic letters and a sense of scholarship that eschews some of the more popular theories about CR.
Most interesting, was the extent to which Christina's reputation has been conditioned by our and historical views of women's writings: as Jones points out, women who write in a so-called 'feminine' style (simply, directly, about emotions, nature etc) are only ever rated as 'women writers' who cannot compare with real (i.e. male) poets. On the other hand, an 'intellectual' woman such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a contemporary of Christina's, are tainted by a kind of muscularity in their writing ("falsetto muscularity" in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's memorable and disdainful phrase). Jones puts Rossetti back into her rightful place as a creative artists, despite her gender.
Ultimately this is a hugely sad story of a Victorian woman who loves twice but never marries because she cannot bear to marry a man who's religious faith and belief is less than hers, and so she goes through life, alone, lonely, frustrated. The violence and sexuality which she struggles so hard to conquer erupt from her writing. Reading her life in 2007, really brings home the extent to which so many female C19th maladies may have been psychosomatic, the result of such intense and life-long repression.
Altogether this is a well-written, sensitive and revealing book: and if it sends more people (back) to Christina Rossetti's work, then it will have done it's job extremely well.